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(updates 27. Nov 2002 and 2. Jan 2003: new Opera, Mozilla and Galeon versions, Dillo, Konqueror and performance and 25. Nov 2002 and 7. Jan 2003 browser statistics, also especially for GNU/Linux)

This page is mainly about Internet client programs, which can be roughly divided into web browsers and download managers --- robots (search engines and automatic link checkers) are not treated here, because they are too special. The other important part of the Internet, the server side with webservers and script languages will be treated on another page of this LINUX package guide.

Preliminary remark: because it's not clear, if KDE/qt (and the similar CDE) or GNOME/GTK+ will dominate as desktop systems in future and because there are also different other ones on platforms like Solaris, and to ensure easy window managers (LINUX fvwm[2], AfterStep and WindowMaker from GNUstep and Solaris OpenWindows or Motif) still as useful, I will not treat desktop specific tools here! This leaves some combined file managers/web browsers and at least one download manager behind, but I think general applicability is enough reason for doing so.

The first part is still important, especially if you're downloading big bundles of data over not very fast connections, which takes then a long time: download managers. There is one general useful graphical now:

Download Manager d4x/nt

Usually contained in modern distributions, this one gives you all the neat things, which no browser I know is capable of so far. This means: ability to continue downloads even after termination of the download manager and re-launching it later, of course also after a total connection lost and so on; to give your download a priority from "take all you can get" over a medium choice (uses about the half of the otherwise maximal obtainable bandwidth) or a very slow mode, which doesn't hamper anything else using the same connection. Default behaviour is, if you schedule several downloads at once, it starts the first scheduled and after completion it continues with the next and so on. You can even schedule the downloads to your own like. It's pretty stable, and the only drawback are offending webmasters, who deny you the download manager usage by any means like cookie abuse, JavaScript abuse or explict CGI control to avoid their use (sometimes maybe a method to stop ill-designed or -configured robots or even hackers?). This is no way a problem of any download manager, you know!

Prozilla

This comes in two versions: similar to wget (see immediately below) as command line tool, and otherwise with a GUI too. Common feature is, that you can do multiple downloading from either the same or several URLs simultaneously: like NetAnts (for those you know that one) you can download a file in several pieces at the same time, which can accelerate things and make the download more reliable, especially when a slow, unreliable server is connected, and with ftp servers it can search itself for mirrors, choosing the fastest or getting different pieces from several locations also simultaneously and this way speeding up things again. In most cases without changes to the default the command proz URL will split and run the download in four pieces together.

GNU Download Command wget

A very mature and reliable tool with many useful options, despite it lacks a GUI--- or especially because of it! There are options for continuing downloads (which works often even with another client aborted download and even with an alternative URL, if the file to get is the same (type/size), recursive downloading all files in a directory, with the option to limit recursion depth to a certain value, choose file types and so on... The man page is clearly worth reading!

Internet (Web) Browsers

On LINUX the variety of available graphical browsers is rather limited. By above mentioned limitation it gets even smaller, but I offer you two fine text browsers, sufficient for simple text information reading (and sometimes even a little more, keep reading!). Especially the following five I have just tested mid-to-end March 2001 and afterwards, and first a table follows, which gives you some hints about table rendering. This was made with a typical, multi-table file of about 1.6 MB size full of statistical (homepage visit) data. Such tests are always to a certain degree special, you know. Current remark: I have changed somewhat the system and therefore substitute the old table with a more current one. The data are now: WindowMaker with 1068x768 pixels resolution and a color depth of 16 bit (means 65536 colors) and 384 MB RAM with a LINUX Kernel 2.4.19-xfs and glibc2.2.5 as qt 2.3.1 and qt 3.0.3 with a PII 333 MHz CPU and an ATI graphical adapter (4 MB memory) I got the following results for completion of the rendering of the local stored file (further important remarks see below), as on the Mac OS X page now without other processes and running two nice 19 seti@home (3.03) instances:

browserrendering time in seconds solelysame while two seti clients running
links 0.4pre5 (text)6.5*10
w3m (text), v0.31214
Dillo 0.6.41014
Opera 6.03 (shared using qt 2.3.1)1419
Opera 6.10 (shared using qt 3.0.3)1622
Opera 6.10 (static using build in qt 3.0.5)1521
Netscape 4.87096
Konqueror 2.2.2 (qt 2.3.1)38--57 (slower after reload!)>=52
Mozilla 1.0.0--1.0.174*105
Mozilla 1.170*95
Mozilla 1.273*99
Phoenix 0.4 (Mozilla 1.2 beta based)70*94
Beonex 0.8.1 (stable, Gecko based)75*104
Skipstone 0.8.3 (Gecko based)73*97
Galeon 1.2.5 (using Mozilla 1.0, Gecko based too)7499

People, I'm really not kidding you: the fastest table renderer, the text browser links, is indeed more than 10 times faster than the slowest, the graphical browser Mozilla 1.0! It's hard to comprehend, how this can be, without assuming, that links uses all high-efficiency tricks in existence and Mozilla works literally with "brakes on". To be fair: Mozilla supports so many w3c standards, that this may give a little extra-time needed to check thorougly for all constructs. Current remark: the newest Mozilla versions, the last major betas before the first official release, have improved dramatically in performance (and also in reliability) generally, which is still visible in above last row: the rendering time for the same table has dropped somewhat again, from 1.0 to 1.1, as so many times before. Another improvement is visible in version Netscape 4.8 to my surprise now --- but it has only disadvantages compared to Mozilla. One of the reasons I make responsible for the relatively slow display of pages (which are internally rendered clearly faster by Gecko) is present too: with gcc 3 compiled an advantage of about 10% was easily visible, when I tested it once with the otherwise same version --- an even better compiler could accelerate things much more! On the other hand I couldn't discern notable performance differences between the already fastest graphical browser Operas versions 5b6, 5b8 and the first official release 5.0 as with the 6.0 technology previews. Current remark: with the release of the 6.0 beta 1 and 2 versions Opera has made dramatic improvements in rendering speed from previous GNU/Linux versions again, while still using the no good optimizing GNU 2.95.3 compiler! With the above values of only 14--16 seconds it has opened up the gap to its rivals extremely and at the same time it's now the first one, which is on GNU/Linux as fast as the shitty M$IE 6 on Redmonds monopoly OS's (on that OS it's even clearly faster than the illegal Redmond browser) on the very same hardware --- and still uses the all but optimized (again GNU 2.95 compiled by the way) qt library! Now it's not even sure, if Opera 6 is faster on M$ Win or GNU/Linux on the same hardware... Finally: there was meanwhile a dramatical improvement in the w3m table rendering speed compared to earlier beta versions. So w3m has nearly closed down the gap to links and leaves as well any graphical browser but the most recent Opera versions far behind!

*these browsers use some kind of preload technique, which makes appear browser entities faster: you have not to wait for completion of the entity, to see a bit from it. Despite it creates a little unstable impression while loading (parts are most often, even more than once, re-arranged during further download/rendering therefore), it gives you faster what you want: the first contents. Please keep this in mind.

German flagFür Leser des sonst sehr guten Linux-Magazins noch eine Anmerkung: die letzten beiden großen Browsertests waren zwar interessant, ließen jedoch Vieles außer Acht und sind daher mit Vorsicht zu genießen. Die unverständliche Lobhudelei auf den ohnehin nur auf Win (und bedingt noch dem Mac) verfügbaren MžIE stimmt bedenklich, wenn man die zahllosen Verletzungen von w3c-Standards berücksichtigt und die extrem mangelhafte Sicherheit bedenkt, die dort nicht angemessen einbezogen wurden (was ist z.B. mit Nicht-Standard-Features, mit denen die Redmond-Mafia mit ihrem Browser versucht, das Web nach eigenen Vorstellungen zu manipulieren?); und nur einseitige, durch die Auswahl bedingt MžIE-bevorzugende HTML-4-Tests wurden durchgeführt. Die Zeitmessungen erscheinen ebenfalls wenig hilfreich, da es in der Praxis hauptsächlich um Seiten wie die hier getestete geht, die richtig Zeit zum Aufbau brauchen.

Text Browser links

As you have already seen above, if you have primarily or occasionally to deal with huge text only containing tables on HTML pages, there is clearly this browser your tool of choice: beating even the next best by a factor of more than 6 regarding speed, it's a high-speed HTML table look and search tool. And it is, as mentioned above, even preloading, so you have not even to wait for completion to get some contents already! Because you can search in the page also pretty fast forward and backward and so on, this offers you a superior way of performing such tasks. On the other hand, tables and frames (despite not very flexible yet) can generally be displayed by it without problems. But there are no further add-ons, so you may use the other text browser I present too or even solely:

Text Browser w3m

See also my remarks at the top of my Internet computer page. A little bit poor table rendering performance --- especially for a pure text browser! --- is the main drawback of it, otherwise it has some advantages to above mentioned links, which is better in tables: you can view images during staying on X with a helper application (typically xv) and even send mail with another helper application (even from console, if you enter a console capable mail client in the w3m preferences!) from within. And it works with several colors, displays table frames correctly (opposed to the two only widely distributed web browsers so far) even in cases, when some cell contents are missing. You can choose also a frameset table view or toggle between it and the usual, graphical browser like frame rendering. I'm using it as much as graphical browsers, because many pages I visit contain only interesting text!

And there is another story: I buyed once a membership on a site with Netscape 4.x, and then I couldn't get inside afterwards by some incomprehensible problem. Reactivating cookie and JavaScript support changed nothing, must have had to do with some webserver internals (maybe that insane M$ based web server hates UNIX based browsers like Netscape?). Despite I had neither webserver nor browser internal informations to figure it out, I resigned and tried w3m --- and then it worked absolutely flawless! I could get into, and despite a little tedious, I could do all usual sorts of things therein: preview and download pictures, sending mails without leaving the browser and so on. Working under X, this was only a minor complication then. Generally speaking, due to the relative simplicity of text browsers they can be far more stable, reliable and near bug-free then the elaborate, complex graphical browsers...

Simplistic graphical Dillo 0.6.6 Browser

This is a very simple one, not able to perform complex tasks (i.e. no frame support!), but for simple mixtures of text and images (including tables) well suited. And it's main advantages are being very small, super-fast (even faster than links! see above) and needing virtually no resources. Especially for portable systems with low resources well worth to check it out.

Remarks regarding plugins

All graphical browsers below are plugin capable, and in my view the Shockwave Macromedia Flashplayer, the plugger (for these look at general resources overview), the crossover (Quicktime) and the Java plugin are the most important of these, working with all three browsers (only Netscape 4.7x has for historical reasons still build-in Java support). Many webmasters use nowadays Flash animations (by the way, at now you can run the Flash studio software only with wine on ia-32 Linux), which are increasing load sizes and times as well as requesting enough CPU and graphics power, so it's important to have it; plugger enables you to play MPEG-1 streaming with players like mtvp and xanim, the rather new Codeweavers' Crossover plugin brings for the first time (legally!) the Quicktime since version 3 (it's the current version 6) with the Apple only licensed Sorenson video codecs to Linux (wine is required, so it's a ia-32 solution only so far) and Java is still sometimes needed, despite the modern tendency is to run it on an Apache/Tomcat web/application server and then Java is executed on the server side, making browser support for it superfluous. For the last Java support requesting cases, you need any recent JRE (Java Runtime Environment) installed and to copy (or to link) the appropriate plugin from it into the browsers plugin directory. For Java I still recommend the Blackdown version of Suns JDK/JRE, because it has better support for non-KDE and non-Gnome window managers and an explicit, successful tested plugin for Mozilla (see below). I have at the moment trouble with the Opera 6.0TP2 regarding Java and plugger, even in the recent version 4 (and too with version 3.3), made trouble with Mozilla version 0.96, not with versions of Mozilla from 0.8 to 0.95. --- Graphical Internet browsers are always complex, error prone pieces of software, so updating to new versions is strongly recommended rather often, to ensure security, stability and up-to-date handling of newer features of websites. That's the point, where for not high bandwidth users Opera has a big advantage (very little download sizes, 2 to 3 MB only!), Mozilla is bearable (10 to 11 MB downloads) and the old Netscape 4.7x is virtually unbearable (at least 16 MB).

Graphical Browser Opera, now as final release 6.10/6.11

The main disadvantages of this browser are the following: either you have to accept in-build advertising, which cost you nothing by the way, or you have to buy a registration (39 US-$) for removing it. It lacks some of the features regarding stability and capability of a longer realeased version: plugins work now partly with it in the technological preview version only with increased crash risk, for example. Version 6.0TP3 is much more stable, despite 6.0TP1 was very unstable. This is/was a severe drawback, because nowadays a Flash player plugin is nearly necessary (comes as part of new Netscape 4.7x installations meanwhile even on LINUX!) and a streaming video plugin like plugger for MPEG-1 streams is really nice. Final hint: the beta versions were up regarding stability to the 5.0 release, so you can now take advantage of the additional features and dramatically improved speed with using the beta 2 and now the final version: the last are again accelerated considerably compared to the dramatically faster beta 1 version (see above), and is now leading even against evil M$ Win/IE boxes with the same hardware!

But don't take this wrong: for most of you this is now the browser of choice, I'm sure! They are now in love with LINUX, and you can go directly Opera LINUX buttonthere to grap it immediately (only 3 to 4 MB works on all systems, even only about 2 MB if you have a qt library with at least version 3.0.3 installed).

Either way, the modern, for a graphical browser also extremely fast rendering (more than three times (!) faster than it's closest graphical competitor and even faster than text browsers' w3m beta version!) and the already fully implemented, working security features (SSL, TLS, cookie handling and so on) make it a very interesting tool. If fixed the above mentioned drawbacks, the sum they want you to pay may be good invested --- I propose, you wait for a LINUX release (the plugin supporting ones are still betas, and have some problems i.e. with Java) supporting plugins before doing so. Personally speaking, now after successful using the Flash plugin and partly also the plugger with older AVI and Quicktime animations played by xanim (the mtvp plugin stops after starting play MPEG1 streams after a few frames at now) I payed them for their work for political reasons too. Be aware, that you need a newer Motif (compatible) library for it, for example found in newer, current lesstif packages (libXm.so.2 to be precise), which is contained in more recent distributions.

A little slow is the display of a directory to save into, if it contains many files, because Opera is always ordering entries. Maybe another slight disadvantage, because this prohibits personal sorting of bookmarks in one folder: they are offered alphabetical.

You have to get used a little to the way Opera displays and activates (text) links: holding the mouse key pressed helps you out and not all text links are always underlined (despite it's a w3c recommendation, but you can configure that too). Finally, it seems to support XHTML fully and even XML partly (at least the contents of the tags were to see in a trial, but it made no use from the accompanying DTD or XSLT stylesheets) and you can give it the text editor of your choice as HTML page creator/change tool, like gvim for traditional "hardcore" UNIX experts like me, or emacs, or any other editor available and capable of opening a window --- with MIME specific syntax highlighting (gvi with enabled option!) this may be enough.

Final hint: be aware, that you need at least the qt2.2 library (version) for the dynamically linking version 6.03, so I tested with the statically linked version only, because I wanted not to upgrade qt2.1 to qt2.2 for this only reason... With 6.10 you need even at least qt 3.0.3 installed or use again the static version. The plugin enabled technical preview 5.05 needed even qt2.3, which virtually nobody had installed, I guess, so the technology previews 6.0TP 1,2 and 3 run too. This applies also to the two betas of the 6.0 version, despite 2.3.2 is recommended, it works with 2.3.1 too.

The Final Netscape 4.8 Graphical Browser

Oh people, it's indeed a little dated meanwhile and no longer development takes place. But the simple fact is: in the past you couldn't find any other graphical browser for LINUX (and probably most other UNIX systems) with sufficient, despite not great (due to UNIX standards) stability and all of the requirements for plugins, secure transmissions, a minimum security policy and so on. So it may remain at now an seldom used tool for some people only, especially webmasters, because many of us are eager to replace it with more modern, capable and nicer browsers like Opera and Mozilla --- but where they are, the real alternatives? Netscape 6--7 is by the way so similar to Mozilla 5, that I don't treat it here --- compared to Mozilla it has only the drawback of much more advertising, so far I know! (if you should consider this as an advantage, that's your own deal) And it's an older state of Mozilla, by the way.

Graphical Browser Mozilla 1.0.1, 1.1 and 1.2.1

Folks, believe it or not: I changed from Netscape 4.76 to this open source browser as standard tool in early 2001, which shares a considerable amount of it's engine with (apparently already doomed) Netscape 6 browsers, but not with the older 4.x series. The reason was, that for the first time Mozilla (since v0.8) is capable to use plugins like Flash player and plugger for streaming video, and the concept is meanwhile quite convincing too: a very granular security policy, per-site configurable and warnings against insecure, but possible actions of a new kind (store passwords for sites: please encrypt it for your own security, Mozilla begs, if you choose this option!), a very well styled bookmark framework, customizable to no end, since version 0.9.6 now with tabs instead of windows choosable similar to Opera, and the modern Gecko rendering engine, which enables again watching of contents ahead of rendering completion. This is a must, because in pure table render terms, this one is still the slowest of all tested browsers! This is strange, but may have something to do with not yet optimum Kernel cooperation, glibc2.1 usage or similar topics. Probably the slow, platform-independent and not very efficient GUI part of the browser is responsible for it. However, even the page composer produces now flawless HTML 4.01 (W3C valid version!) and warns you about unwelcome constructs! (like leaving blanks in the image alt tag field, which is allowed, but strongly discouraged; illegal omitting of it is even impossible!) So you get a HTML 4.01 conformant, GUI-menu-driven web page creation tool too.

With a little UNIX style manual editing of the configuration you can even forbid popup windows (common JavaScript abuse by a number of not so small providers and unscrupulous and/or insane webmasters) generally or for all but a few explicit configured sites, without deactivating JavaScript completely! (as well status line rewriting, window resizing and so on can be forbidden equally granular) Meanwhile, with version 0.97, at least the default JavaScript policies can be accessed by the edit preferences GUI too.

Another hint for the technically interested: since 0.91 now full, despite not absolutely flawless XSLT support is included, what means, you can with this browser only view XSLT style sheet supplemented XML files (M$IE has a very weak, easy to break down support for w3c XSLT meanwhile in v6)! (Opera turns down this wish, because they think this opens up the lane to too much manipulation of layout in the internet, and as usual M$ shitware doesn't conform to the W3C standard, even v6.0 has problems with not very straightforward XSLT). And meanwhile there is even a DOM viewer available as build-in, able to render either HTML, XML or XSLT rendered XML as HTML DOM tree; another unique capability is to animate the free MNG images like the unfree (lzw patented compressed [though only in the USA, where patenting is totally ridiculous], "thanks" to the Unisys bandits!) animated GIFs.

Because it's still a beta, with versions 0.9, 0.92 and 0.94 were delayed a little bit (I'm now using it, it is greatly improved in many regards!) and with the first official release 1.0 probably and hopefully coming still in the first half of the second year of the third millennium (2002, you know!), it had (and still has sometimes) some minor problems: the history sidebar behaved sometimes strange, for example. Together with Opera 5.0 resp. 6.0b2 it's nevertheless the best candidate yet for (complete) substitution of Netscape 4.7x, which can't be omitted so far completely (especially if you are checking web pages like I do, Netscape 4.7x is still rather important in that regard) from your active application collection. Current remark: the release of the first official version 1.0 fixed not only nearly all of the remaining (relatively few) bugs, but gave also a considerable speed improvement, making it as fast as the previous Galeon (i.e., Galeon based on Mozilla 1.0) in rendering the test page. Either way, regarding XHTML and XML and many files in a directory to save into the same remarks as with Opera hold true. Both can't deny, that they are true 5. generation browsers (opposed to the only so claiming IE5.x and 6.0 M$ shitware for example, or the over-version labeled Netscape 6, which is close to, but behind Mozilla 5). Branch information: currently there are three branches active, the frozen, but bug fixed 1.0.1 and beyond for stable integration of other applications using it primarily (useful also for people, who don't like any visible and notable changes the way it happens otherwise often), the stable 1.1 release, due to my experience equally stable and slightly faster, with improved w3c standard support and 1.2, which is beta, but will become stable release in short time too.

Galeon 1.2.6: the GNOME/GTK+ Derivative of Mozilla

Due to its popularity on GNU/Linux (I have tried to compile it on Mac OS X/XDarwin too, but so far failed) I checked this one too. It features a cleaner, but smaller preferences and interfaces collection with some more nice features than its parent, opens much faster new windows and is also faster in rendering the test page (see above), but not as much as some people might think (no surprise: obviously the rendering speed depends primarily on the very same used internal Gecko rendering engine). Interesting is, that with the last Mozilla 1.0 only release 1.2.5 the rendering speed improvement was just marginal, while the basic Mozilla used improved considerably: this hints to removal of some performance obstacles in Mozilla, which were removed before only in Galeon, so the difference between the GNOME/GTK+ derivate and the engine Mozilla itself has dropped largely now. Either way, despite the huge advantage of Opera (especially since version 6.0b2) it's clearly the second fastest in this regard among the graphical browsers. The heavy add-ons available on Mozilla like DOM viewer and so on aren't available, but this seems due to a more lightweight browser policy similar to Opera... The integration in the GNOME desktop, maybe the future desktop on GNU/Linux, Solaris and other UNIX flavors, is fine of course; but it requires vice versa some GNOME components, which is a little hassle, if you're running KDE or no desktop, but just a window manager like WindowMaker or AfterStep (both GNUstep window managers) or even the somewhat dated fvwm(2), OpenWindows and so on.Final Remark: Galeon 1.2.6 can be used due to the way it was compiled either with Mozilla 1.0.1 or 1.1 as engine base (and even with 1.2 beta, if you like). Therefore performance measures are a little hard to compare... And be aware, that the development version 1.3.0 needs GTK+ 2 and GNOME 2 too and is a little premature beta only.

 

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remarks etc. to: stefan.urbat@apastron.lb.shuttle.de

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